Champions League birth garners the club millions of crowns
Just five years ago, Viktoria Plzeň was a storied club stumbling through one of the worst seasons in its 100-year history.
But just three months after capturing its first-ever Gambrinus liga title, the club has notched its biggest victory – and an even bigger payday – by advancing to the Union of European Football Associations’ (UEFA) Champions League.
Claiming a spot in the prestigious Champions League – which comprises the top soccer clubs throughout Europe – is a financial boon to any club as television and marketing revenue is divided evenly among all 32 qualifying teams. As a result, Viktoria Plzeň will take home more than 225 million Kč ($13.4 million/9.3 million euros) just for advancing to the Champions League group stage, which it did with a 2-1 victory over Denmark’s FC Copenhagen Aug. 24. The club is just the third from the Czech Republic to ever advance into the group stage.
“This is a dream come true for the players, fans, as well as the club employees and representatives,” said Pavel Pillár, spokesman for Viktoria Plzeň. “A year ago, I don’t think anyone was expecting this. And anyone saying they did was not being serious.”
The victory celebration, Pillár added, was a short one as the club still has games to play.
“The [locker room] was full of excitement, as were the administrative offices. The players all had one bottle of champagne [after the victory], but that was all,” Pillár said. “There will be room for more celebrations during the break.”
Qualifying for the Champions League earns every team 550,000 euros for each of the six games in the first round, totaling, for Viktoria Plzeň, 79.6 million Kč. In addition, each team is awarded a participation bonus of 3.9 million euros. Plzeň had already earned 51.4 million Kč for advancing to the qualifying round. The club’s total budget for 2011 is just more than 80 million Kč.
The team can also collect performance bonuses of nearly 20 million Kč for each win and 10 million Kč for each draw.
“This is a lot of money for Czech soccer,” said Jaroslav Kolář, spokesman for the Czech Football Association (ČMFS). “It is a great opportunity for Plzeň, and it means an increased number of people and fans.”
It also means a chance for Czech fans to see some of the world’s greatest soccer players and teams up close for the first time. Viktoria Plzeň’s draw in the group stage will bring European powerhouses Barcelona – the defending champion – and Italian giant AC Milan to Prague’s Synot tip arena. The games will be held in Prague as Viktoria Plzeň Stadium, currently under renovation, will not be ready when Champions League games begin in September. Viktoria Plzeň’s group – Group H – also includes BATE Borisov from Belarus, which will be the club’s first opponent.
“The quality of play we will face now is stunning, and we have to accept it,” Pillár said. “Our group is on an absolutely different level. Our aim is to prepare well and hope we will be able to say after the matches that we didn’t make fools of ourselves.”
– Filip Šenk and Šimona Müllerová contributed to this report.